New statistics on the continent are worrying as the corona epidemic goes on. The cases in South Africa now stand at 1280, Egypt at 609, Algeria at 511, Morocco at 479 and Tunisia at 312, all ranking with the highest counts so far. Various economies are suffering as a result of the preventive measures being taken by the public sector and global industry to curb the spread of the virus due to the disruption of both supply and demand.
Aside from some of the resources we listed previously for startups, there is still a need for more support to the continent’s already fragile health system as well as all citizens of the various affected countries. With the cases recorded in Africa rising, governments across the continent have reinforced preventative measures. However, to quote Aljazeera, “In Africa, social distancing is a privilege a few can afford.” Indigent communities that live hand to mouth are suffering from the break in public transportation that in turn has diserviced those with medical emergencies unrelated to the COVID-19 outbreak, financial incapacity to feed their families for the long periods of self-isolation as well a break in the supply chain of essential domestic needs leading to exaggerated hiking of prices.
It is time for African startups to step up in this time of adversity. E-commerce, Fintech, E-Logistics and Supply Chain, Ed-Tech and Healthcare and Pharma are some of the many essential sectors. Here are some startups by sector whose services are of much relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare and Pharma
This platform allows patients to connect with the best healthcare providers and health services. The startup recently launched a free medical service consultation service for anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms in an effort to speed preventive care. Users in Egypt and Saudi Arabia can access expert advice from the comfort of their homes and receive expert advice from the comfort of their homes. Vezeeta is also sharing information on knowledge about the COVID-19 through its social media platforms.
This Ghana-based startup’s mission is to increase access to high quality medications. It also offers a drug benefits service to health insurance and pharmaceutical companies to make it easier for patients to afford medications. mPharma is operational in 5 African countries, partners with 50 hospitals and has 200 pharmacies in its network. The startup launched the price control program “Mutti Keep My Price” for chronic patients to address the potential drug supply shortage and price increment due to the ongoing break in the drug supply chain as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Nigeria genomics startup has launched a $500K fund to increase the COVID-19 testing capacity in Nigeria up to 1000 additional tests per day by buying biosafety materials and testing materials. 54gene opened the fund with a $150K donation that was later followed by an additional $350K from various partners including Union Bank. 54gene aims to improve the inclusion of African populations in global genomics research to power medical breakthroughs and discoveries that will change the landscape of healthcare globally.
Twiga Foods operates a mobile-based cashless platform to link farmers and vendors to fair, trusted and modern markets. The startup provides a ‘complete supply chain’ for a variety of products including fruits and vegetables. Twiga also just secured a $5M loan from US-based International Development Finance Corporation to buy additional transportation and cold storage equipment. The company whose supply chain sources from more than 17000 producers and delivers to over 8000 producers is essential in this period especially to reach the rural communities that cannot afford to store foods for the lockdown.
The startup has continued to serve its South African customers during the lockdown with an assortment of groceries including dry foods, fruits and vegetables, frozen foods, household items, toiletries and even bulk packs. The e-commerce platform has also implemented additional measures like a strict no-contact sanitised delivery system to the customer’s doorstep and cashless payments.
Copia’s mobile-commerce platform bridges the gap between suppliers and the middle and low-income African consumers by leveraging a digitally enabled network made up of locally based agents who operate as ordering and delivery points. The platform offers a range of products and services including household items, baby products, food, farming tools and even health products. This is another delivery service that is much needed during this outbreak.
A startup that helps users manage funds for their healthcare. The system links directly to clinics and healthcare payers like insurers and donors for fast, efficient and transparent treatment and payment. Through the M-TIBA app on their mobile phones, patients can put to use saving or private insurance schemes to access treatment. With funds limited to only healthcare, this provides a reserve for users to take care of an illness doing these rainy days.
Fawry offers convenient and reliable cashless ways to pay bills and other services. Through multiple channels like ATMs, online and mobile wallets, users can pay for utilities, insurance, make charitable donations, telecommunication services, groceries among others. Co-founder Mohamed Okasha recently announced his stepping down from his role as managing director and the launch of his $25M fund that Fawry has committed to anchor. The fund will invest in Egyptian fintech startups across different stages.
Opay provides an easy and free money transfer for the payment of bills and purchase of food, all without physical handling of cash. The startup partners with 10 brands including MasterCard, Visa, United Bank of Africa among other financial institutions. Through a massive campaign that OPay organized towards onboarding a lot of vendors and supermarkets to adopt their platform implies that many businesses in Nigeria accept OPay as means of payment.
A startup also offering digital payments solutions and transfer and receipt of money through mobile phones. Paga has created a multi-channel network for over 14 million customers in Nigeria to transfer money. The startup recently entered partnership with Visa to transact on its global network as well as Flutterwave to allow Paga wallet users access products from merchants on the Flutterwave merchant service with a simple, secure one-click payment. Another cashless service to prevent the risk of contracting the virus through handling money.
This is another supply-chain the continent can leverage during the pandemic. With some Governments giving allowance to cargo transporters as essential operations during this outbreak, Lori Systems’ logistics coordination platform can provide long-haul transportation facilities on-time. The high demand of goods due to the panic shopping has led to shortage of products inclusive of the vital hygiene products like hand sanitizers. This transportation system would be of great benefit to its countries of operation which have all recorded cases of the virus.
With operations similar to Lori Systems, Kobo360 is based in Nigeria with operations in Togo Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. In a blog post on the company website, co-founder Obi Ozor acknowledges the implementation of measures to mitigate risk and ensure continuity to safeguard the millions of people who depend on food delivery, medical supplies and sanitation goods that they facilitate. He also emphasizes prioritizing the employees safety by ensuring they are well sensitized on the outbreak as well as protected from it.
A platform that has access to a large number of students can pass on relevant information regarding the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak to sensitize them on preventive measures. Social media campaigns and informative adverts can be shared to appeal to the youth and in so doing, fighting the spread of the deadly virus.
Obami is a social learning platform that provides a secure space for people to create or join learning communities with extensive user-friendly course authoring and management tools. The startup provides access on its website to the South African coronavirus portal to provide its users with more information on the outbreak within the country. This includes news and updates on cases as well as resources and contacts.
Kenya’s Eneza Education offers revision and learning material to students in rural Africa via basic feature phones in Kenya, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The startup also partners with brands such as MTN Group, UNHCR, Safaricom, Orange, Equity Group among others. The platform can pass on preventive care campaigns and adverts powered by its partners to the 6 million+ learners it has access to.
Additionally, 27 Pilots has set up an initiative dubbed “Startups Against Corona” where startups help companies solve business-critical problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With clients such as BMW, Siemens, BSH Group and LafargeHolcim, the platform helps established companies onboard startups that create solutions of relevance to their operations. This initiative has received much participation from brands such as Audi, MAN, Dupont, Pwc among others and creative startups like the Leena.ai, Kinexon and 4tiitoo.
Digest Africa urges all to wash your hands with soap, sanitize them frequently with an alcohol-based sanitizer, wear protective masks and gloves while going out into the public if need be but most importantly staying indoors to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you’re a startup fighting the COVID-19 pandemic through your business or offering solutions to other startups in these tough times, contact us here for the opportunity to be showcased on our website.